Jazz balladeer Ed Reed will celebrate his 80th birthday this Saturday evening, with two shows, 8 and 10 p.m., at Anna’s Jazz Island.
Accompanying Reed will be well-known Bay Area pianist Larry Dunlap; Peck Allmond—Berkeley High alumnus, now playing in New York—on tenor saxophone, trumpet and flute; Robb Fisher, bass and drummer Bud Spangler, best known as a radio personality and producer.
The Daily Planet first interviewed Reed two years ago, on his 78th birthday, the eve of another gig at Anna’s—the CD party for his first recording after a lifetime of singing. This week Reed talked about what’s happened since that CD (Ed Reed Sings Love Stories, produced by Spangler and Allmond, after Allmond met Reed at a Santa Cruz Mountains jazz camp in 2005)—and since an article on Reed by jazz writer Lee Hildebrand was featured in the Chronicle a half year later, when “the phone started ringing and never stopped,” as Reed put it. “I was bowled over by it. Everything was different after that.”
Besides his first CD, which became the most played new release for 2007 on Bay Area jazz station KCSM, another recording—The Song Is You, also produced by Spangler and Allmond—was released in 2008. Reed placed fourth in last year’s Downbeat Critics Poll for Rising Star Male Vocalist, and has received good notices in other major jazz magazines and newspapers, some as far-flung as Rio de Janeiro. Most recently, Reed was featured in the December issue of Jazziz, garnering a big spread with full-page photos.
He’s appeared onstage in New York at the Jazz Standard and Sculler’s, in Boston, Seattle and in other venues and at festivals elsewhere on the West Coast, including twice at Yoshi’s in Oakland—and on Marian McPartland’s National Public Radio program, Piano Jazz.
This taste of a late-blooming career for Reed (who, as a boy in Los Angeles, was taught to sing over chord changes by a teenage Charles Mingus, babysitting for his sister in Reed’s neighborhood) elicits his humor.
“I guess I’m carrying a torch,” he said. “Not too many are left like me ... but I was never looking for that kind of recognition. I guess I got a sound; I don’t know what that is. I sing a lot of stuff that makes me happy, no set stuff. And I can have a hard time listening to myself. I’ll walk out in the yard, go into a room and close the door—it’s not deliberate. I’m just not interested in him, not interested in the guy doing that, that day.”
Reed teaches a class in jazz vocals at Berkeley’s JazzSchool. “I tell the students about being up on stage, with the musicians grabbing your attention ... no way I can use all of it; it’s frustrating,” he said. “But the part I CAN use ... We’re all grinning by the end of it, and I’ll say, ‘Was there an audience?’ You sing for yourself, not the audience, if you’re a jazz singer. But you’re not the gift, you’re the gift-giver. And you’re always struggling, always a novice. Every musician is. And the devil tries to get him to do something he can’t do. It’s very humbling—what you want, you can never get.”
Reed lives in Richmond with his wife Diane, and sings Tuesdays at The Cheeseboard in Berkeley, accompanied by Brian Cooke and Robb Fisher. His website, with samples of his CDs, is at edreedsings.com.
8 and 10 p.m. Saturday at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. $15. Call 841-5299 after 6 p.m.